Because we suddenly seem to have a Queen Mary right here in little old Geneva! Of course, it might be nothing more than a case of City Manager Mary McKittrick harboring delusions of royal grandeur, though she certainly seems to be making good on them.
That’s not nearly all! There’s also the queen’s court which consists of pretender to the throne, Princess Stephanie (Dawkins, Assistant City Manager), you already know the Clown Prince, and, of course, the royal yes man and 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra.
And woe be it to any aldermanic peasant who dares to beg the queen for some meager data scraps, for she will swiftly and summarily issue her infamous edict to remove their political heads.
So if you tuned into channel 10 this week, you already noticed the latest recipient of her royal wrath was none other than 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg who had the temerity to request what was essentially a simple workman’s compensation report by department.
Foolhardy serf that he is, Kilburg first attempted to pry that information loose via an unobtrusive email request. But despite state statute clearly stating that aldermen are privy to virtually any internal information, the Queen was not amused and turned him down flat.
Only when faced with staring at those sheer stone castle walls did Kilburg resort to bringing it up at last week’s city council meeting.
Incensed, Princess Stephanie commenced to running around in circles shrieking that it couldn’t be done without a Sisyphean effort, the Clown Prince accused Kilburg of making frivolous requests, and Queen Mary imperiously insisted upon learning the specific reason the alderman dared demand data.
Why, the Queen even issued cutting queries like, “then what,” “what’s next,” and “What are you doing with it.”
Had I been sitting squarely in Alderman Kilburg’s hot seat, my not-so-polite response would’ve been something along the lines of, “It’s none of your damn business, just give me the bleepin’ report.” Because, the legal truth is, no city councilman in this vast county ever has to justify their reason for making a reasonable request.
Finally fed up with his figurative flogging, Kilburg asked if the information could be obtained by FOIA. That’s when Princess Stephanie said something so silly, it will go down in the annals of royal proclamations like “let them eat cake.” She essentially said that if the report doesn’t already exist within the city’s computers, then they don’t have to provide it!
Ain’t it fun to pay an assistant city manger more than $100,000 a year to render that kind of bizarre and blatantly bogus legal opinion?
God bless sage City Councilman Chuck Brown who quickly and accurately noted that, under the Princess’s scenario, to render themselves immune to all FOIAs, all a municipality would have to do is to neither create nor generate reports.
As this former columnist and FOIA expert will readily tell you, Alderman Brown is dead on. If the data exists, short of social security numbers, health information, and overly onerous inquiries, ALL FOIA requests must be honored and answered within five to ten days.
Leaping to the Queen’s defense, Clown Prince Burns declared that “creating work for the staff because you’re curious” was a royal no-no to which the entire city council had already acceded.
No Mayor Burns. What really happened is you and the aldermen came to a loose verbal understanding about not unduly impinging upon staff time. But instead of adhering to the spirit of that accord, you, the Queen and Princess use it to beat the council over the head at every turn. As alderman Flanagan said, perhaps it's time to document the difference between what's reasonable and unreasonable.
The Clown Prince continued his soliloquy by claiming these kind of Kilburgian requests would create the kind of “poisonous atmosphere” that would cause city staff to resort to garment rending and the general gnashing of teeth
No Mayor Burns, what creates a “poisonous atmosphere” is never holding the staff accountable for absolutely anything. Then you get a fading downtown, a former streets superintendent who steals $24,000, an assistant city manager who thinks FOIA requests are optional, and a city manager who thinks she can treat the alderman like something slightly less than the royal manure.
But not to fear dear reader, this fairytale has a happy ending. (Don’t they all?) For this intrepid former columnist just issued a FOIA request for the very information Alderman Kilburg has been so diligently seeking. And in doing so, I reminded our cast of city characters that not only do I utterly understand the FOIA laws, but I would be willing to involve the Attorney General just to make my point.
I’ll keep y’all posted on that process.
Wait a minute - here’s a thought! Since our city royalty seems to have so many problems with their statutory responsibilities, perhaps this might work. Should any alderman require further city data, cut out the middleman by coming to me first.
Then I’ll FOIA it.